This time of year, we’re all reminded of what we have in abundance. Our holiday dinners grow more elaborate each year and our lists of gifts longer. It’s easy for young children to think of the holiday season as a time of fun, celebration, and bounty. But it’s also an important time of year to give back to the community in order to make sure that the joy and abundance spreads to those less fortunate. Teach your children to associate the holidays with giving, helping, and caring this season.
- Donate, donate, donate. Do you know of a local food bank that takes canned goods, or even hams and turkeys to distribute to local families? Give the gift of food. Is there an organization in your area that collects toys or coats for families in need? Set aside a brand new gift for a child who would otherwise go without. Or better yet, gather the family together to volunteer time at a local soup kitchen, food bank, church, or school, to organize the donations and help the staff prepare for a busy few weeks of giving.
- Teach selflessness. Undoubtedly, your children have long lists of toys and gear they want this year. But most likely, one or two of those items is an object they could happily part with. Ask your kids to give up one of the toys on their list, and donate the equivalent amount of money to a charity of your family’s choosing. Talk about the charity and how they help people with your children, and help your kids understand just how much of an impact your donation will make.
- Think of the animals. Many people do not realize how taxed animal shelters can become in the wintertime. Many homeless animals need shelter during the cold winter months, and shelters lose precious volunteers when the holidays become more and more frenetic. Volunteer your family’s time at a local shelter, where your children can pet, brush, and play with animals. Bring cans of food or cat or dog toys for the animals, too!
- Keep an eye overseas. Many organizations organize gift boxes and letters to send to soldiers serving overseas during the holidays. Your children can help you to assemble a box of holiday goodies, and write of letter of thanks to the soldier who likely will appreciate the extra kindness at a time of year when he or she is separate from family and friends.
- Notice your neighbors. Is there an elderly couple on your street who needs help shoveling their driveway or steps? Pitch in with your kids! Do you know of families nearby who are coping with a new baby, an illness, or financial hardship? Just bringing them a homemade meal or a thoughtful gift can do wonders, and your children will learn to be watchful of people around them who may be in need.
You’ll be surprised at how excited and engaged your children will become when stacking canned goods, putting together gift baskets, or volunteering their time. And when you work together as a family to donate goods, money, or time to organizations or families in need, you set an example for your kids that they’ll build upon as they grow older.
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